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God Is a Fiction Created to Control the Masses and Cultivate Uncritical Thinkers

The untenable absurdity of uncritical religious faith and fundamentalism.
God Is a Fiction Created to Control the Masses and Cultivate Uncritical Thinkers
Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash
Author’s Caution:

Before you start reading, I want to set the tone and the boundaries for this article, which might offend some readers.

I believe that what I have written needs to be said, and is justified. The original draft of this article happened in a single sitting as a stream of consciousness, but it has taken me two years to feel ready to publish it. You will likely sense the emotion and trauma behind the words that come from my experience as a gay, queer man; as a human being, who has suffered the prejudice that many religious individuals invoke upon queer people.

If anything, I am attacking systems, ideologies, and individuals who refuse to accept facts.

I believe that every human being deserves dignity and the right to exist. There is nothing tenable that disqualifies any human being from having the freedom to be who they are, to exist, or to receive life-saving medical care. No single person should ever have the right to make laws that limit human freedom of self-expression and sovereignty.

Thoughtful, engaging comments are welcome, but I will not tolerate personal attacks or moral pronouncements against my person or thinking. With this piece, I am seeking to dig deeper into the systemic issues that are corroding humanity. I trust your feedback will help me to continue and take more risks to challenge the dangers of uncritical, ideological thinking.

With that, I hope this article makes you think and question ideas you may never have considered.

The early Taoists, who shared the wisdom of the collected verses of the Tao Te Ching, knew that there was no being in the sky that was all-powerful and all-knowing.

Instead, they saw creation as an unknowable thing — spontaneous, and of itself so.

It is often asked, “What does Tao mean?” The Tao was never meant to mean God, nor was it religious in meaning. The Tao is everything, and it is also an action — it is how we make our way in the world.

The opening verse of the Tao Te Ching reads:
“The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
The unnameable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.”1

We are told in the first verse that the Tao is unnameable — a paradox because for us to communicate and understand each other, we need words.

Thus, the Tao is not an idea that can be easily labelled, described, or categorized. But a name has been given, thus giving the idea its origin. My take is that what we call the universe is the unnamable that is eternally real.

If only we could just leave things there and go about living our lives…

Why in Tao’s name does this matter?

This article is a critical rant/opinion piece on religion — which I consider to be an existential failing of humanity.

I believe we can make our way in life without the need to believe in a god that explains away all that we can’t (or choose not to explain). It requires patience, critical thinking, and a willingness to change your mind and evolve. It also requires honest leaders who are willing to challenge faith-based ideologies as exclusionary, prejudiced, polarizing, and at worst, extremist leading to violence and insurrection.

Civilizations through the ages have anthropomorphized the idea of God into a person, most commonly with the characteristics of a man.

When one or a handful of people wanted power, they created secular rules and an organization for belonging and ritual.

Religion morphed into masculine dominance and patriarchal control. This has most certainly contributed to this time of illiberalism and unsustainable capitalism. Science came along and sought to explain the Tao, God, the universe, and creation, as having come from the Big Bang — a spontaneous, of itself so, non-conscious originating action.

If you can believe in a god in heaven, why can’t you also believe that there is no god?

History shows us what we did not know, including the mysteries in this world that we may never solve. On the one hand, why do we need a singular answer for how we got here? Why do we need to prostrate ourselves to a God, anthropomorphized into a father figure, raining down his wrath upon us? Sadomasochism anyone?

We are continuously learning new things about the universe, thanks to science.

What makes science radically different from religion and religious faith is that science seeks proof through investigation and analysis. As history demonstrates, new information adds to or discredits previous theories. Science is organic in that it develops and evolves.

Religion is artificial in that it is stagnant and ideological.

We could say that Atheism — or a lack of belief in god —is a matter of intelligence.

This is simply a bad argument.

The ancient pyramids were built approximately 5,000 years ago. Constructing these wonders of the ancient world required intelligence, planning, mathematical ability, engineering skills, imagination, social and work organization skills, and so on. And yet, that culture believed their house cats were divine and that their pharaoh was one of the pantheons of gods incarnate on this mortal plane.

The Romans were builders of great cities and societies, creating aqueducts to bring fresh water into cities from hundreds of miles away, paving roads, introducing plumbing, and developing many of the political structures that exist today. They switched from polytheism to monotheism in the form of Christianity in approximately 300 C.E. — after crucifying Christ and selectively choosing which “biblical texts” would support their new belief system (one of control and oppression supported by both state and church).

If the irony is not lost on you…

The issue here is 'power over' and keeping that power over the populace in favour of the privileged few.

Religion is the fundamentalist faith-based ideology that harms humanity.

If we invented religions, does that mean God is also an invention?

Religion was invented to control the masses. I recognize there are a few modern, inclusive, and welcoming of all denominations, like the Metropolitan Church. This is an organization instead of a particular religion — but it is still one that seems associated with the Christian faith and all the problematic historical baggage that comes with it.

However, absolute power is perilous.

History documents how absolute power corrupts, and eventually the people find a way to successfully revolt. Citizens will guillotine a head of state or an entire Senate will stab at a dictator on the Ides of March, resetting the balance of control among the power brokers beneath.

Yet, a well-run religion is far more successful at herding the sheep and keeping them corralled and occupied.

And here’s why:

The first lesson of religious indoctrination.

Teach your children about your religious faith as early as possible, and they will rarely question your beliefs.

But the earlier, the better, since they will eventually learn about the world and may then ask questions about what was never offered to them as a choice.

When you aim to control the masses, you need to give people something to believe in, something that is not abstract — like the natural order of the universe or the Tao. You see, it is just too difficult to take complete responsibility for one's life and to live with the awareness that your life is finite, short at best, a mere blip unnoticeable within the infinity of time and space.

This is what religious faith affords:

If you believe in God, you will have life everlasting! You can now look forward to passing from this mortal coil into the bright light of the ever-after and eternal bliss and salvation. The Egyptians were next-level-prepared for this with the construction of their pyramidal monuments to their faith.

Sarcasm aside, most people are seeking some form of order in their lives.

Our brains are searching for patterns. From these patterns, we create predictions and responses. This is how we make meaning of our world — and, as suggested at the beginning of this article, how we make our way in the world. For example,

  • How does the world work?
  • Why does the sun rise in the East?

We see these things as a repeating situation; a pattern. Instead of asking too many questions, there's a God that takes care of all that. The earth isn't flat, you say? Heresy! Off with your head! We have proven the earth is round many hundreds of years ago, yet there is a modern movement of flat-earthers.

This isn’t because people are incapable of accepting scientific facts, it’s because facts for them destroy their faith.

Using Habit Formation to Develop False Belief Systems

Coming back to prediction and response — creating certainty about the world around you — the way you make a new habit is to practice what you want to be habituated until it is unconscious behaviour.

If you keep at it with the best of intentions and repetition, you will have a new habit; a set of predictions and responses that are part of your basal ganglia. This is the part of the brain that stores all of our programming and is responsible for everything we do automatically, like being able to walk and talk and zip up your jacket all at the same time. If it wasn't for our basal ganglia, we would not be able to do more than one thing at a time without having to put our conscious attention on every singular action.

As you can see, this habit-formation ability we have as humans is not only desirable, but it is also useful. The basal ganglia works by noticing how often you repeat the same practice, which becomes new code and is added to your mental software.

Be careful what you practice: the part of your brain that creates habits (basal ganglia) doesn’t discern facts or truth.

While this is fantastic for developing habits like exercise, flossing your teeth, or writing regularly, the basal ganglia does not discern for truth. If you start flossing your teeth because your dentist gave you a prognosis of gum disease if you don’t floss, that’s a great reason based on facts to improve your oral hygiene.

However, with prayer, and the indoctrination of young children into ideological prayer, no factual reasons are given for the practice. Young minds will mostly do what their parents or elders tell them to do.

As I’ve already mentioned, the basal ganglia will only notice the repeated actions; it doesn’t discern for truth.

So it is written!

Fire! Famine! Monsoon! Tornadoes!

“Why is this happening?” the terrified populace cries.

“Let me tell you a story,” says the preacher on the mound. “There are 10 Commandments that are the will of Yahweh.”

"Ah, good, so if we obey these rules, God will protect us, provide rain for the crops when needed and manage that nasty weather, so we won't suffer too much," agrees the unquestioning sheep.

“Let us pray,” quips the priest. And thus the masses recite prayers over and over again. They join in the communion of other believers and repeat these rituals regularly. And this is religion.

Repetition equals prediction equals response equals blind faith in the dictates of a set of “holy commandments” written by some dude and brilliantly executed as the word of some fictitious being in the sky.

The wrinkle (aka the big problem) with blind faith.

What about that horrible drought and all the death and suffering from last summer? Isn't God supposed to protect you? Well, of course he protects you, silly! He is just testing you and the depth of your unwavering, unquestioning faith.

How devious of those in power who understood the basics of manipulation.

All the priests needed to do was to provide the carrot of eternal salvation and regularly test their sheep for the depth of their blind obedience. Then, when nature does its thing, as nature will do, and the world returns to normal, the true believers will have nothing left to do but feel more empowered by their beliefs. They prayed to God for the storm to pass, and it did.

Too bad that no one noticed that if they hadn't prayed the storm would have still passed. Because that's what storms do — nature is of itself so.

Religious beliefs breed blind obedience and stupidity.

This vicious, manipulative cycle of religion has been allowed to fester for far too long and will take generations to change.

For things to change, we will need to practice patience, compassion, non-contention, critical thinking, and leading others in a way that inspires them to ask better questions, think differently, and think for themselves.

Good luck, right? But this is the only way out of stupidity, which I define as the refusal to acknowledge or consider alternatives and facts in contrast to faith without reason.

This transformation begins with a human-hearted approach to personal responsibility and the acceptance that unity — or oneness, commonality, and connection — is the nature of the universe. We cannot affect this change with the belief in a polarizing god on high who empowers division through patriarchal power systems, hegemony, fear, and control.

This change will require believers to question their beliefs and to become comfortable with the fact that they will be unable to find answers to substantiate their faith.

And yes, I know my conclusion seems ironic, taking a compassionate approach after my rant. But shy of brain-altering drugs and brainwashing to unlearn fundamentalist beliefs, what other choice do we have?

  1. Mitchell, Stephen, trans. Tao Te Ching: a New English Version. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.